The Lyric Poet as Power Bottom

by on May.21, 2011

Robert Lowell: Power Bottom

I’ve been thinking about how the lyric poet is like the power bottom of gay male culture.  As everyone on Facebook knows, this amazing article at ChristWire gives us a useful gloss on the power bottom’s role:

Experts have noted that the power bottom has changed the traditional submissive/dominant dynamic of the homosexual copulation ritual. In this new environment, the bottom takes on the role of the aggressor/hunter, prowling leather bars and anonymous websites for a most vigorous backside invasion possible. The top penetrator is submissive in this delicate game, letting the “bossy bottom” purchase him expensive cocktails and pay carfare.

What I find pertinent about the power bottom is that he gets around the deadlock of prescription—the identity of a ‘total’ top or bottom—by submitting himself to a penetration that he nevertheless invites and mediates. I believe this is what the lyric poet does, at least ideally, when he/she chooses to use the first-person pronoun in an act of irreducibility and volatility. The lyric’s inward turn, far from ensuring predictability, mastery, and control through some imagined psychic space, instead courts a contact that might set the poet up for pleasure and/or self-annihilation:  pillow-biting, viral transmission, or just really dull pain.

Another analogy to be drawn between the power bottom and the lyric poet is the intensity of narcissism and identification involved in both endeavors. To follow this thread, let us turn back to the ChristWire article:

Over time, the power bottom will come to be defined by his rectum. His anus will become a sort of personal occultic shrine, a thing he cares for constantly, pampering it with talc, deep cleaning its pipes and even whitening its ruddiness through medical procedures (see my report on anal bleaching). He will spend night and day thinking of the reproductive organs of his past and future conquests, memorizing girth and length, curvature and angularity, foreskin and stamina.

By replacing “rectum” and “anus” with “I,” we arrive at a perfect description of the lyric poet’s degeneracy, his or her studied and religious obsession with the self, which is as expansive as it is embodied.  Like the intestine that empties into the anal canal, the convulsive lyric “I” is both inside and outside:  it deprives the poet’s body of well-sealed interiority and temporal integrity, always threatening some kind of excretion of the past, always vulnerable to some kind of seduction of the future.

8 comments for this entry:
  1. Stephenson Billings

    You should be in jail. FILTHY!

  2. Chris Gaton

    This is amazing.

  3. Bill Knott

    gee, Johannes, how do you keep coming up with these kooky ideas!

    here’s a poem from my Collected Sonnets (which can be downloaded for free):


    First she slides a banana up my ass
    almost but not quite all the way in
    then deftly with a knife she slices
    the rindtip that extrudes and when

    the pithsweet meatus shows its white
    cusp like a pearl between the moue
    of a romeo in a cameo says Right
    Hold it Okay now squeeze real slow

    as she squats and eats the ivory
    flesh emerging and smearing fused
    her red lispberries while the yellow

    skin remains within me to be used
    as a kind of condom for the dildo
    she has to ram in and out artfully.


  4. adam strauss

    Cheers to bottoms!

  5. Nick Demske

    i love that robert lowell is your posterchild for pb’s
    : )

  6. Two articles to change your life « NICKI-POO

    […] Lucas De Lima at Montevidayo, on power bottom poetry […]

  7. Bruce

    This is so hott. I want to be on top when I write, on top of everything. No pillow biting for this virile 21st century spumante.

  8. Acker and the Anus as the Center of the Brain - Montevidayo

    […] everything gets confused in the coital act Acker describes and somehow enters. Suddenly, as in the lyric of the power bottom, the anus becomes the point of access for creativity: “That’s where all my thoughts are […]